May 2017 News

Kashmir Terrorists Unite As Locals Take Reins

7 May 2017
The Economic Times
Hakeem Irfan Rashid

Srinagar: Four terrorists joined the crowd at the funeral of their slain associate and fired from their rifles as a form of gun salute in Kulgam on Sunday. The terrorist, Fayaz Ahmad Ashwar, was killed in retaliatory fire after a police convoy was attacked in Anantnag on Saturday. The 'gun salute' is also a reflection of the open display of defiance by terrorists of late to assert their presence, especially in south Kashmir. J&K is witnessing a new age militancy that is challenging the state after a gap of almost 15 years, since the massive militant attacks of 2002-03. With its 'changing tactics and social acceptance', the militancy, police observers say, is not only able to survive but also attract attention. The new form of terrorism with the highest percentage of locals in last two decades has become a 'monolith' operationally, say police officials, and the lines between different organisations have almost blurred on ground. J&K police chief S P Vaid says: 'The two most influential terror groups, Hizb ul Mujahideen and Lashkar-e-Toiba, operate together now. We don't see any difference between these organizations. They are all terrorists for us. However, there are inputs that they are operating together right now.' The total number of active terrorists as per police, Army, CRPF and other agencies, varies between 230 and 250 terrorists and around 60 to 70% among them are locals. Vaid says, 'In south Kashmir, 90% of the terrorists are locals while in north districts 90% terrorists are foreigners.' The police officials claim that the local recruitment has given a 'new thrust to militancy' especially in wake of decrease in the infiltration from across the border. The attacks on workers of pro-India political parties, looting banks and barging into the residences of policemen are seen as a consequence of the more local recruitment in the militant ranks. HM was dominated by locals and now LeT is also majorly run by the locals. Only Jaishe-Muhammad groups, the police official said, infiltrate at regular intervals and conduct operations as per instructions from across the border. 'The issue is that these terrorists are locals. I have at least seven terrorists from my neighborhood. They know everything and are capable to strike anytime,' a legislator of ruling PDP from South Kashmir told ET. He has not visited his home for more than four months now. According to police, the terrorists are changing their tactics as per the ground realities as perceived by them. The increasing attempts to snatch weapons and loot banks is how they are taking care of the shortage of weapons, ammunition and finances due to acute surveillance and difficulties on Line of Control. More than 100 weapons have been snatched in last one year. 'These terrorists make their own choices of association and dissociation on ground. There is no one chief commander of Valley. Every group has its own captain,' said another senior police official, who was part of many recent anti militancy operations. However, many senior police officials claim that the number of terrorists was still not a major issue, but it was the support of people that magnifies this militancy. 'People think of terrorists as custodians of political ideology with religious inspiration and associate with it. Otherwise five or six successful operations against terrorists will settle down things here,' said another police official. This weekend civilians disrupted two antimilitancy operations in Kulgam and Shopian, helping the terrorists to escape from the spot. The recent daylong crackdown and cordon and search operation in more than 15 villages of Shopian during which helicopters and drones were used, Vaid said, was an area domination and anti-militancy exercise to plug this trend. 'Situation is definitely better than last year and you will see the results of such exercises soon. You will see a drop in militancy as well,' said Vaid.